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East Midlands Chamber News

Chamber’s Westminster deputation talks procurement with Minister


A range of companies from across the East Midlands joined the region’s biggest business-representation organisation in Westminster yesterday (Tue) for a Ministerial roundtable discussion on procurement.


They met with Oliver Dowden, Parliamentary Secretary and Minister for Implementation, to discuss his plans to ensure £1 of every £3 of Government contract spending goes to small and medium-sized firms.


The companies in the deputation were all members of this award-winning Chamber and included representation from logistics, retail, business services, training and IT sectors. They fed back their own experiences, successes and challenges of dealing with Government.


Key issues raised included accessibility to contract information, the variable quality of initial evidence demanded, sizes of contracts and frustration over needing to complete multiple pre-qualification questionnaires.


Other matters of concern were a lack of proportionality or relevance in requirements around insurances, accreditations or procedural policies, management of top-tier suppliers and ensuring they deliver on promises to suppliers and recognising and rewarding social value in let contracts.


Transparency around the Government’s decision-making processes was also raised.


Martin Traynor, whose role as Small Business Crown Representative in the Cabinet Office is ‘to make sure the Government gets the best value from small business and that small businesses have the best possible opportunity to work with the Government’, supported the meeting.


Appointed to the role earlier this year, Martin is backing the Government’s drive to improve procurement.


The Chamber has been actively seeking to improve procurement contract opportunities for smaller businesses, working closely with HS2 and Heathrow Airport, for example, to encourage regional SMEs to get involved in major infrastructure projects.


Chris Hobson, the Chamber’s Director of Policy, said: “Getting smaller companies involved in major public sector projects is a win-win situation as it can offer greater competition and secures work for those businesses.


“Smaller companies often don’t chase opportunities on bigger projects because they don’t think they’ll have a chance of winning them, are daunted by the application process or don’t realise that most contracts are broken down into bite-size chunks.


“The Chamber is working hard to break down these mythical barriers and to help regional SMEs get involved in national projects, whether it’s HS2, Heathrow Airport expansion or any other major project. There are two sides to this work, one is about improving access to opportunities and the other is supporting businesses to create competitive bids.”